Charles Brodley

Royal Albert School


It will be sixty years next year that The Royal Albert School moved from Camberley to its new premises at Gatton Park leaving me behind.  In a very real sense, I never left the school, rather it left me.

It has been a wet and miserable day sixty miles south east of Melbourne. I have spent it reading all the Newsletters, visiting the School website, reading the prospectus, The Sunday Telegraph article and signing up to  It is all overwhelming :  riding, ski trips, girls and young women, Sixth Form bedsits, Maths and Further Maths.......  what a transformation.  It is a fantastic effort; the fact that so many members of staff  spend thirty years or more at the school is truly remarkable. Any organisation that can do that has a very special ethos and a very special mission.

In a recent issue Ray Davies asked for more stories from Old Scholars of the Royal Albert; I owe it to him to respond as best I can. If, Newsletter Editor, this is all too much or irrelevant please cut and chop at will.

The Royal Albert School occupied a site outside Bagshot just south of the junction of the A30 (London Road) and the A325 (Portsmouth Road) and about 1½ miles from Camberley High Street. At the crux of the junction was The Jolly Farmer Inn and 500 yards away, toward Camberley, was Gibbett Lane a truly spooky place on a dark November night.  

And this is how it came to be named.

Colonel John Byng wrote Rides Around Britain in the 1780’s. 

On 24th August 1782 he had breakfast in Bagshot and then rode out on to Bagshot Heath.  At the top of the first rise he came to The Golden Farmer Inn and took the left hand fork on the road to Frimley, a road new to me. The Golden Farmer, Byng says, was named for the publican who became rich through his depredations. His gibbet still stands.  John Byng is talking of Gibbet Lane and the highwayman hanged was the publican of the Jolly Farmer. Gibbet Lane is still there but the gibbett has gone.  

It would have been an easy matter for the publican to assess the incoming coach and the likely value of its’ passengers, change into highwayman costume a la Superman, ride to Gibbet Lane and then hold up the coach shortly after it left the pub. With good sense he would then cut the traces and ride off.  By the time the distraught coachman got back to the inn mine host would have been behind his bar and deeply distressed at the news.

He was caught because he was the only local tradesman who always paid his taxes in gold coin.


The Jolly Farmer early 1900s.

The building still exists beside a very busy roundabout but no longer trades as a public house, it is now “The American Golf Discount Shop.” (Oh tempora, o mores). It was also a ‘bus stop for the Aldershot and District No 9 ‘bus service from Egham to Aldershot of which more later. Opposite the Jolly Farmer on the A30 were the Jolly Tearooms, a popular place for Sandhurst cadets on map reading exercises. The tearooms have since been demolished.

My Mother and I arrived at the School at 2.00pm on Thursday 28th October 1948, (which makes it sound like a sentence) but you don’t forget these things, especially as the day of your arrival was a mark of seniority.  Even the youngest boy had more street cred than the newest boy and, rather like the Army, time served mattered.  Mrs Inglis brought her son Brian on the same afternoon and we were met by the Headmaster, Chas A R Taverner.  After some few minutes pleasantries we were taken out to punch the Victoria Tree and then to our dormitories up the main staircase.  We never used those stairs after that.   Having unpacked the few clothes that we had, all newly marked with our house number (in my case S27), our Mothers departed and we joined the school.

Going to Boarding School must always be something of a shock, especially for a child of nine or younger, and it takes some little while to get accustomed to the routine. That was not the worst of it.  The Headmaster didn’t help.  The pantomime that year was to be Cinderella and he immediately put me into the role of Prince Charming.  All new boys are a pretty easy target but one who is to be Prince Charming is a much easier target than most and a few senior boys were not slow off the mark..... thank you Eddy and Willie. It was probably worse for Terry Heard who was to play Cinderella but boys survive.  The Ugly Sisters were Rod Randall and Bernie Collis, both of them very tall and thin.

The current Headmaster put the process of joining like this to The Sunday Telegraph in their article on the RAAS:

Spencer Ellis compares it to being thrown into a fast moving river. 'One year we did a statistical check and we found foundationers were three times as likely to win a prize on Founders Day and twice as likely to become a prefect. I think that reflects an understanding: “I’ve been given an opportunity and I’m not going to let this go.”’[1]

Of course he is right; it is a fast flowing river and in 1948 every boy was a foundationer .  The circumstances in the aftermath of war were always the same; mothers who had reached the end of their physical, emotional and financial resources.  Even the youngest child has a clear understanding when their Mother is in trouble and with varying degrees of difficulty they learn to swim.....  and the vast majority do  learn to swim. It is a very good indicator of the time that these matters were never discussed because, in 1948, across the land, every family carried its’ own story.  We could not have articulated it in those words and there was probably no conscious thought process but clearly, there was, as Mr Spencer Ellis says, an understanding. For us the attitude was: This is it, boy, now it is up to you. Not perhaps quite what he had in mind but, for the Class of 1948, pretty much the truth. John Billingham was one of us.


Royal Albert School, Camberley 1948.

The school was very self-contained. The only external buildings were two hutted classrooms at the rear used by the junior boys and a small walled compound of lavatories (dykes) beyond the tower.  Boys were not allowed upstairs during the day, hence the need for the dykes.  It has been suggested that there were no doors to the cubicles because they were removed for sledges. I don’t think that is true, my own view is that there never were any doors; the Victorians who built the school were suspicious souls.  Even table legs were thought to be suggestive.

The main entrance is obvious in the photograph and led to a large entrance hall and the main staircase which was never used by the boys except when they were scrubbing them.   The two rooms immediately beside the entrance were the office and the Headmaster’s Study.  Immediately above them were rooms for the Headmaster and his family.  Turning left in the Entrance Hall on the ground floor led to the Dining Room.  Turning right led to two classrooms (one each side of the corridor) and then up some steps to the school hall which also served as the gymnasium and chapel in the building with the tower.  Below the gymnasium was a cobbled covered area with whitewashed walls and those window panes that had wire mesh embedded to prevent splintering.  It has been called the undercroft in Newsletters but I remember it as the undercover.   This area contained a locker for each boy, the cobblers shop, and had benches around the walls.  It was a place to go in wet weather. One hundred boys in a closed space make a lot of noise.

The four houses had two dormitories each, one above the other, at the corners of the main building. Sturdee House had the dormitories at this end of the building on the first and second floor at the front and Victoria, Edinburgh and Connaught had the other three corners. We slept fourteen boys to a dorm on hospital type iron bedsteads, and as everyone has remarked, there was no heating above the ground floor so it was a very character building building.  A junior dorm had a senior boy as monitor.......... remember Rabbit Rees ?  ( I cannot remember his first name, perhaps it really was Rabbit.)


The farm and the rear of the school.

In the photograph of the rear of the building it is clear that the main building and the hall were separate and joined by a corridor on the ground floor. The entrance to the undercover is the black space visible between the trees. Either side of this black space are the two huts where the juniors were taught. In winter (from the 1st October and not before) each of these classrooms were heated by a single coke burner which was hopelessly inadequate to the task and the classrooms were chilblain cold.  If you know where to look the covered staircase to the dining hall is visible at the right hand end.

The bounds for boys during the day ended at the fence to the top field. The area where the hutted classrooms were was the playground and included the area around the dykes at the end of the building where the tower is.


School Dining Room.

The photograph is taken from the entrance to the dining room.  Before meals boys assembled outside and then went in and stood at their place seven to a table.  After grace had been said 112 chairs scraped the floor and everyone sat down.  The kitchens were underneath and the food came up on a hoist.  The scullery is through the door on the right and, after the meal, some boys had the job of washing up. Also on the right hand wall is the House Competition Board. For those who remain competitive after all this time it reads:

Edinburgh 4

Connaught 3

Victoria 2

Sturdee 1

The double doors into the main building are on the left. From the table in front of the doors, the Headmaster would distribute the mail and Matron would dole out the cod liver oil each winter evening, one teaspoon per boy.  On one evening a week we would receive our sweet ration of 2 ounces of sweets which meant a Mars Bar or a Frys’ Peppermint Cream or a tube of pastilles.  They were laid out on a counter and we filed past and took what we would like.  Some boys saved their entire ration for the term to take home in the holidays, an effort that required more discipline and self-sacrifice than I possessed.

Food was an ever present preoccupation. There was never enough and we were always hungry because young boys generally are.  What none of us could know or appreciate is that the entire country was hungry.  During the war, it is generally agreed a majority of Britons were better fed than they had ever been and much better than those in occupied Europe.  Rationing was introduced in 1940 and what you ate was governed by the ration book coupons that you had.  As a result everyone had a similar diet and the countries of the Commonwealth and America did their best to make sure that the country got enough food. 

Here is the adult ration of the time:

One shilling worth of meat                                                                          

4 ounces of bacon.                                                                             

2 ounces of tea                                                                                  

1 ounce of cheese.                                                                             

8 ounces of sugar                                                                              

2 ounces of margarine.[1]

[1] One ounce is about 28 grammes.

You were also allowed one fresh egg per ration book if they were available.

 In 1945 an agricultural labourer was earning about £3 a week for 48 hours or 1/3d an hour; one shillings’ worth of meat per week was rather less than his hourly rate.  It didn’t buy very much.  Other goods such as tinned milk, vegetables, fish, and dry goods were allocated points and each ration book was valued at 20 points per week to spend on these as they were available.  Children got a special allowance of milk, orange juice and cod liver oil to supplement their ration.  The cod liver oil was supposed to be good for you but the taste was  awful.   After the war matters became worse for a couple of reasons.  First Britain was broke and her industries and agriculture broken.  Secondly, the moment the war was over, those countries that had been so supportive during the war had to attend to their own needs.  Britain and her people were no longer the pressing priority that they had been before.  After the war rationing became tighter and both potatoes and bread were put on ration, something that had not happened during the war itself. 

So while we might have sung :  Eggs and bacon we don’t see..........We get sawdust in our tea   .........  and I don’t remember that we did................ feeding 112 growing lads was going to be  difficult anyway without the added problems  associated with institutional cooking.  I do remember:

 Breakfast time is here again         And boys begin to clamour          But all they get when they’re inside            Cold porridge and a banger.

One evening I was taken aside.

“Did you write that on the board?”                                                                                        

 “Yes sir”                                                                                                   

 “Don’t do it again”.                                                                                                 

“No sir”.

This is a good place to insert a photograph to illustrate the point about food.

PT Display 1950, Len Steele supervising.

These are the junior boys doing PT at Speech Day 1950 watched over by Len Steele at the rear. You can count the ribs on every one of the boys. My brother (broader) Lawrence is closest to the camera.  A comparison with today’s eleven year olds would be revealing; we were all pretty skinny.  (Some years later at RMA Sandhurst at 6’ 2” and 11 stone I was placed on supplementary rations to build me up !)

The working farm was originally established for the very good reason that, in 1864, most boys who left the school would become labourers on the land so it gave them work experience. Of course, it also supplied the school with vegetables and produce.  With mechanisation farm experience was no longer as valuable as fewer and fewer people worked the land, but the School Farm continued and, in the years after the war, it is as well that it did.

Our routine was the same as any similar establishment whether a school or an Army Unit except the Army call it a parade rather than Assembly. We were woken up when the duty master rang a bell on the first floor at 7.00 am. On the bell we had to jump out of bed, grab a towel and line up at the dormitory door. Then we went in to the washroom for a quick wash and to clean our teeth and back to the dormitory to dress. At 7.30am we lined up outside the Dining Hall for breakfast.   I’m sure it is very much the same today.[3]

After breakfast each of us had an assigned duty; this might be washing the dishes in the scullery, scrubbing the main stairs, sweeping the dormitory or whatever else. We did these and at 8.50am we assembled on the tarmac by the Undercover in our classes and at 9.00am classes began.  I recall a conversation with an old man in Natal who had gone to The Hermannsburg Mission School. He was astonished that I knew so much about his school including the jobs he had and the allotment.  “I went to the same sort of school” I told him.

The staff at the school when I arrived were Headmaster: Chas A Taverner (followed by Mr Duebert) and the Masters were: Ray Davies, Max Elliott, Mr Elves, Tom Fleming (followed by Len Steele) Mr Rhymer and Mr Batchelor. The caretaker was a man called Jack Bishop; Vicky Rickman was the Nurse and there was a Matron who I can see in my mind but cannot name. For the first two years I was taught by Mr Rhymer in one of the outside huts; I don’t remember what I learnt  but I was well enough taught  for me to pass my Eleven- Plus exam and gain entry to the local Grammar School. 

For such a small school and the few members of staff there were a surprising number of activities to keep us occupied. I shan’t remember all of them but there was aero-modelling with Ray Davies, Boy Scouts with Mr Elves, an Army Cadet Force unit of the Royal West Surreys, ballroom dancing with Miss Muller, boxing with Dusty Miller, Badminton and table tennis in the gymnasium, a billiards table in one of the classrooms (it swung over to make a large table[4]),  amateur dramatics and films in the dining hall on Sunday evenings.  All the films were in black and white and of 1940’s vintage with Alistair Sim, Michael Denison , Margaret Lockwood etc.  I fell in love for the first time with the star of Legend of The Glass Mountain; I just looked her up and she didn’t age well......... but I still have the music from the film.

Miss Muller would play records in the hall and count 1...2...3...1...2...3 while we circled to the music holding a bentwood dining chair which was very light and the legs didn’t reach the floor. I have never danced so well since for there were no other feet to bother with.  I was amused to read that one of the Housemistresses at Gatton carried a tape measure to make sure that her girls didn’t get too close; a sort of chastity zone.  There were no such problems with a dining room chair, each chair had RAO stencilled below the seat so they had been in use for some time.


The Great Hall, gymnasium and chapel.

In an earlier newsletter someone asked..... Who remembers Dusty Miller ?.  Indeed,  I do, very well.  Jack “Dusty” Miller was born in Lancashire about 1892 and joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (The Loyals) in 1910.  He was a slip of a lad, only 5’ 6” tall and under 9 stone 6 pounds, far too small to be much of an infantryman but an amazingly good gymnast and boxer.  In the Army all Millers are Dusty and all Clarks are Nobby so you have to get used to it.  Jack Miller was called Dusty for the rest of his life and most people wouldn’t have known he was really called Jack. 

Within short order Dusty was not only a gymnastic champion but the Lightweight Boxing Champion of the British Army a title he held until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. After the war a boxing tournament was staged at The Royal Albert Hall over two days with teams from all the allied forces in Britain: Canadian, South African, Australian, New Zealand and the United States.  The finals were held in front of the King and Dusty Miller was again the Champion Lightweight.

He continued to serve until 1928 when he went to The Duke of York’s School as a Gym Instructor and Sergeant Major of the cadet unit. At the outbreak of World War II he was called back to The Royal Military College, Sandhurst to assist with physical training. 

While at the RMC (which became the RMA Sandhurst in 1947) he was active in training boys at the Royal Albert School and he was very, very good at it. First perhaps because he was such a small, genial man, with a gentle Lancashire accent boys could relate to him. Secondly, because Dusty would say ‘toons’ instead of tunes or ‘Toosday’ which is endearing in itself. Of course he was no longer 9 stone 6 pounds because he was, by then, 56 years old but he was still fun.  Boxing was compulsory. One evening a week each age group went to the gymnasium to be taught the rudiments of boxing by Dusty. He taught you how to stand correctly, how to lead a straight left, how to counter punch and would box with you in the ring.  “Come on boy, hit me on the chin”. Of course, at nine years old we were unlikely to do him any damage.   From time to time we were matched off by weight and age for proper boxing matches of three rounds.  For the five years I was at the Royal Albert it seems that it was always Danny Furlonger and me in the final of our weight and age but I cannot recall who came out of it best. Here is a photograph that includes Dusty.

Max Elliott and Dusty Miller about 1950.

Max Elliott is on the left of the photograph and Dusty is on the right but I have no idea who the seated adults are. All the faces in the back are familiar to me but I can name only a couple; the smaller boy with black hair in the back row is John Billingham who has been the Old Scholar Governor for a number of years. On his left is Mike Harvey and two from him a boy called Alec Gilbert. They are standing under The Beeches, three huge beeches adjacent to the sports field. When playing cricket these trees acted as a sort of pavilion.  

Dusty was also adept in swinging Indian Clubs. These were clubs shaped rather like a bowling skittle but slimmer; they were swung to develop upper body and arm strength as well as balance and grace.  During performances in the hall on winter evenings the lights would be turned off and Dusty would come on stage with two clubs fitted with torches in the end.  The resulting light show of his flashing clubs was spectacular. Imagine my surprise ten years later to find Dusty Miller still instructing the RMA Boxing Team at the age of 67 in 1959. 


Dusty Miller at RMA in 1959 aged 67. 

Quite apart from his teaching duties, his pastoral duties and supervising aero-modelling the indefatigable Ray Davies also produced plays including a two hander called The Monkey’s Paw.  This was an Edwardian melodrama based on, yes, a monkey’s paw, which gave the possessor three wishes.  Our paw was, I think, from a rabbit, but that was not allowed to spoil the plot.

The first wish was the wife asking for £1,000 which is immediately granted. Her son is crushed in machinery where he works and £1,000 is paid in insurance.

The second wish was the wife wishing her son alive again and, this wish is granted immediately, there is loud banging and howling at the door.

The third wish was the father scrabbling about on the floor trying to find the paw in the dark who exclaims “I wish him dead, dead and at peace.”

Banging stops, curtain falls, loud applause.

Ian Richards played the wife and I played the husband.

All of this aside we had our allotments along the east edge of the playing field. Some boys were natural gardeners but I was not among them.  On Saturday afternoons we had 1/- (10p) pocket money that we could spend in the High Street, Camberley and plague the grocers for bags of broken biscuits. (A Mars Bar was 3d then and weighed a proper two ounces or 57 grammes).  We didn’t take the bus because that would have cost too much but walked the mile and a half from school.  On Sundays we were allowed out on the Maultway and to go on to Bagshot Heath.

The heath was used by the military for tank training and bren gun carriers. I suppose it was prohibited land but it wasn’t fenced off and it was fun to watch. On summer weekends there were often motor cycle scrambles; these were great fun too and part of the attraction was that they attracted other people and food stalls which made everything a bit more normal.


Chibby Grove in the 1980’s.

In an earlier newsletter someone asked if anyone remembered “chibby grove”. This was an area of mature deciduous trees by the railway cutting which had a number of chestnut trees.  We collected chestnuts in the autumn.....because you could eat them.  On one of those trips down memory lane in the 1980’s I walked through chibby grove and the rustle of the leaves as I walked was very evocative.  When we had cross-country runs the course usually took you through this area and the leaves made a rustling noise as if you were being chased.

From time to time we were taken on an excursion courtesy of Whites Coaches the local bus company with their garage on the London Road near the Cambridge hotel. I suppose too they provided the buses that took us away to play other schools at football or cricket but the detail escapes me.  The photograph below is of an outing about to depart from in front of the school.

Quite apart from these organised activities we became very good at amusing ourselves. Of course we had the usual standbys like conkers, knuckles or five stones (I think we called that dibs), flicking cigarette cards and marbles.  There was also an invented game of ball against the tower.  It is clear from the first photograph of the school that the facing of the building is divided into slabs.  Starting at the bottom slab the ball had to be thrown against the slab and caught. Then thrown at the next slab and caught.  If you missed the slab or dropped the catch it was the other boys turn.  First to the top wins.


A Whites Coach about to depart.

Another great occupation at weekends was in the band of pine trees that separated the main playing field from the football pitch. The ground beneath pines was covered in pine needles and some of the more inventive and imaginative boys would spend hours creating townships and roads by scraping the needles to one side and forming a smooth surface.  That area of ground was also soft and amenable to burrowing.  One way or another term time was pretty full, even if there was no television and certainly there were no computers.  At that time there were only two computers in the world.  They were so enormous and expensive the forecast was that only about a dozen would need to be built.

Here is a photograph from Speech Day 1949 with the ACF contingent on parade. The Inspecting Officer is Field Marshal Lord Wilson GCB, GBE, DSO.

Field Marshal Lord Wilson GCB, GBE, DSO inspects cadets of the RAS.

In 1949 we would have accepted this as normal. An old man in uniform with lots of medals comes to Speech Day. He inspects the cadets, watches the boys do PT or the Scouts put up a tent.  Then we go into the Hall and he makes a speech and gives out some prizes.  Only much later do you realise how amazing this is. 

Five years earlier this man was Supreme Allied Commander- in- Chief Mediterranean , with command over all allied forces in the Mediterranean, the Army in North Africa, the Lebanon and Italy, the Navy at Gibraltar and Malta, the Air Force in Libya and responsible for all operational forces.  At that time, had he so wished, he could have commanded a complete Division on parade and inspected them and there would have been no hesitation to comply. Here he is in July, 1950 inspecting eighteen cadets at a small, obscure school in Surrey.

The following year much the same thing happened.

Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck GCB, GCIE, CSI, DSO, ORE presents the prizes at Royal Albert School, Camberley, July 1950.

Photograph by Ron Francis.

In 1945 General Auchinleck was C-in-C India and after the war responsible for the partition of forces between India and Pakistan. He was an Indian Army officer with a staggering reputation as a soldier, much admired, respected and loved.  In the same year the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Britain’s world famous officer training establishment, had two Sovereign’s Parades and senior officers representing the Queen inspected some 800 officer cadets. 

The Inspecting Officer of the first Sandhurst parade was Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor and the second was General Sir John Crocker. With the utmost respect to both these senior officers their names do not resonate in British Military History in the same way as do Wilson and Auchinleck.

Someone had been pulling strings but to date I have seen no mention of him in the Newsletters and I should like to remember him and pay tribute


His name was Harold Richard Sandilands, born at Hampstead in 1876, into a family that had a long tradition of service to the crown. The Sandilands Clan is from the lowlands of Scotland and a sept of Clan Douglas. In the first decade of the 20th Century there were more than twenty officers named Sandilands serving with the British Army, something that is easily checked in the London Gazette.  Both Harold Sandilands and his older brother James (b. 1874) joined the Army and were very successful.

Harold Sandilands was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge joining the Northumberland Fusiliers (5th Regiment of Foot) in February 1896:

3rd Battalion; the Northumberland Fusiliers,

Harold Richard Sandilands, Gent., to be

Second Lieutenant. Dated 19th February 1896.

(London Gazette 18th February 1896.)


He served in the Boer War from 1899-1902, on the North West Frontier of India in 1908 and throughout the Great War 1914-1918 when he was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded a DSO and CMG. In 1917 he was made a brevet lieutenant-colonel.  His last army appointment was as Brigade Commander of the Peshawar Brigade on the North-West Frontier from 1929 to 1932.


In his obituary published in the Times of 19th September 1961, Brigadier Sir John Smyth VC says:


                             He was one of that breed of old regular officer who had tremendous pride of regiment, the highest possible standards of duty and who loved every minute of his soldiering.


His older brother James Walter Sandilands had an equally distinguished career and became Major General James Sandilands CB, CMG, DSO. His last appointment was Commander British Troops in Southern China from 1929 -1933.[5]


At one time Brigadier James Sandilands had Lt Colonel Bernard Montgomery as a battalion commander in his brigade and after the war Monty acknowledged that much of his professional development was due to his mentoring.


On their retirement the two brothers bought land on Upper Chobham Road and built Drumalbin House.



Maj-Gen JW Sandilands CB.


Drumalbin, the name they gave their house, is a locality in Lanarkshire just off the M74 between Dumfries and Glasgow which, even today, has a Sandilands Farm.   This place obviously had some real connection to the family.  In 1937 when the house was built Upper Chobham Road, immediately to the south of the Royal Albert School, was barely developed and most notable for the Brompton Sanatorium which closed in 1985.  Since then the development has been so great that few of the old buildings remain.


Brigadier Smyth continues his obituary of Harold Sandilands:


 “After his retirement he became interested in the Royal Albert School at Camberley (for Orphan and Necessitous Children) and when this school and the Royal Alexandra were amalgamated I became Comptroller of the new Royal Alexandra and Albert School. Under the Chairmanship of the late James Rank and more recently of Sir Frederick Minter the 400 boys and girls were gradually established in the beautiful surroundings of Gatton Park. Sandy threw himself wholeheartedly into all the problems involved in the creation of the newly established school which became the greatest interest of his life.”


For the time that I was at the school Brigadier Sandilands was the most evident of the Governors and indeed the only one to whom I could put a name. He was always there for any important occasion but also frequently visited the school simply, I imagine, because he was interested and cared. In those days a Brigadier meant very little to us boys and he was then in his seventies, a gentle, smiling but erect man.  I have searched for a photograph but have been unable to find one; I hope somewhere in the archives one can be found for his service to the school is deserving of recognition.

If you line them up Wilson, Auchinleck, J W Sandilands, H R Sandilands and Brigadier Sir John Smyth VC  these men were contemporaries and the Sandilands were those few years older to be in a position to advise and encourage. Three of them were Scots with an above average interest in India and the Indian Army.  Their careers and common interest would have caused their paths to cross many times over forty years of service.  It is not surprising that, when asked, Wilson and Auchinleck were both happy to give up a Saturday to visit a small and obscure school in Camberley to please an old friend, but that too, is service and humility of a high order.

Incidentally, Brigadier Sir John Smyth VC was also a Member of Parliament from 1950 to 1966 with many interests and accomplishments: broadcaster, author, playwright, correspondent, an accomplished sportsman in tennis, hockey, polo and three-day-eventing with an incredible number of friends and contacts. Not a bad man to have as someone who is on your side.

Brigadier Sir John Smyth VC


A No 9 Aldershot & District Bus.

In March 1950 some of us were taken to sit the eleven-plus exam. I passed and from September 1951 joined Jim Elliott, Roy (Jackie) Martin and Stuart (Squeaky) Randall in going to the Grammar School.  We were excused morning duties and made our way across the playing fields and down the drive to the Jolly Farmer to catch the No 9 Aldershot and District Traction Company bus.  We spent the day at the Grammar School and then returned in the evening to the Royal Albert.  In later years we were joined by John Billingham, Feeny Fitzpatrick and my brother, Lawrence Brodley.

 Inevitably this took us out of the mainstream of school life and evenings were taken up with homework rather than activities.

When the school moved to Gatton Park it was felt that my education was best served by remaining at the Frimley Grammar School; I don’t know why because, in keeping with the times, I was told but not consulted. In the event, at the end of term, everyone went home for the holidays and a foster home was found for me in Camberley.  It was a strange parting.  I returned to Grammar School the following term but the Royal Albert was no longer there.

In 1954 the land and buildings were bought by the Ministry of Defence but remained empty for a number of years. In the 1960’s they were renovated and served as the Women’s Royal Army Corps Training College for their officers.  They opened at the beginning of 1965 and the first officers were commissioned from there in August 1965.

                             REGULAR ARMY

                                    The undermentioned Officer Cadets from

                                    W.R.A.C. College, Camberley, to be 2nd Lts., 12th Aug. 1965:

                                    Sandra Anne BOYACK (479679).

In 1976 I was back in the vicinity and, in the company of my wife, made a visit to the WRAC College. After a little persuasion we were allowed a very limited tour but this was a time of security threats and definitely no photographs.  There was little change to the physical structure but in the Army’s way it had become just like any other Headquarters building.  Again in the late 1980’s I was back in Camberley to be told that the main building had been demolished but that the School Hall had been retained.  By that time the entire site had been sold to a developer and the entrance to the drive was gated, chained and padlocked. 

It was late on an Autumn afternoon when I drove up the Maultway and took this photograph.

A last glimpse of the building.

Royal Albert School 1864-1953.


This is the last glimpse any of us shall have of the building. Shortly afterwards what remained was destroyed by fire and the whole area was then redeveloped as a housing estate.

                                                          Vale RAS

                                                                   Vivat RAAS


Charles Brodley

Jindivick, Victoria.

August 2012.



[1] Sunday Telegraph 4 September 2010.

[2] One ounce is about 28 grammes.

[3]  Because his family slept in the adjacent rooms Mr Taverner never rang the bell.                               He simply leant it over to give the tiniest “ding”.  You had to be awake to hear it.

[4]  One evening I tried to swing it on my own, the table fell and the frame splintered.

[5] At the battle of Nooigedacht, South Africa on 13th December 1900 Lieutenant Sandilands led a party of fifteen men to relieve a picquet that was under attack.  Two of the party were killed and five badly wounded, one of whom was Sandilands.  Sergeant Donald Farmer went out under heavy fire and carried Sandilands to a place of safety for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.  He later became Lt Colonel Donald Farmer, VC, MSM.( See Wikipedia)

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